THE GIFT OF TODAY…IS THAT IT'S OVER

Disclaimer: I have no rights and no money.

Summary: Not good with them….read and review if you like it

Chapter 1

A thick fog hung low over the Princeton-Plainsboro University Teaching Hospital as the warm ground air circulated with the cooling atmosphere of the New Jersey fall. The hallways were a bustle of activity as doctors and nurses rushed to meet the needs of all the patients of the hospital and the adjoining clinic.

There was one doctor however, who took his time maneuvering the wide corridors, not feeling the urgency of his colleagues. House's pronounced limp went virtually unnoticed by everyone in the building save one very determined Dean of Medicine.

"Dr. House!" She called to him as he hobbled toward her.

Instead of answering House took a sharp turn and walked in the other direction as quickly as his one good leg would take him. He could here the click of Dr. Cuddy's heels gaining on him and with no where to go he stopped suddenly. Not being prepared for him to stop, Cuddy almost barreled right into his back

"I didn't realize administration had become a contract sport. Or is that just a game you like to play with me?" He spun around and leaned into her personal space.

Cuddy opened her mouth to respond but thought better of it, deciding to simply roll her eyes at the overgrown child the doctor before her was. "I was supposed to have the Karen Collins file on my desk first thing this morning. It's now noon." She looked carefully at him, noting his jacket and bag also the direction he had come from. "Did you just get into work?

"Some jobs require creative accounting, mine requires creative doctoring. I'm an artiste Dr. Cuddy, don't rush me." He turned to walk away but took a last sideways glance at his boss to answer her second question. "I had a rough night. I had to catch up on the last five days worth of General Hospital on Soap net."

"Yeah well, while you were watching Alexis have her baby and Sonny go head to head with his mob rival, we were trying to keep people in this REAL hospital alive." Cuddy shook her head.

"Be still my heart. Cuddy, are you a closet General Hospital watcher? We should start a club." House smiled indulgently, loving a good sparring match with the lovely Dr. Lisa Cuddy.

"I want that file on my desk by day's end. And you still owe me half of this week's clinic hours."

"I thought we were tight Cuddy. Why you gotta play me like that?" House put on a gangster bravado to further mock her seriousness.

"End of the day House!" Cuddy called after him. He merely waved her off.

OOxxxOO

The break room House used for his meetings with his three person staff was awash of disagreement as he walked through the doors. Foreman, Chase and Cameron were all taking turns arguing their perspective on the most recent patient the hospital had admitted.

"Now, now children. No more fighting over which one of you I love more. Cause I can barely tolerate any of you." He took his place at the front of the room by the empty whiteboard. "Doctor Cameron, I see you've learned that my markers aren't for little girls with delusions of grandeur." He commented on the untouched state of his only teaching tool.

"Where have you been it's the middle of the day?" Foreman jumped on House's tardiness.

"Dean Cuddy has been holding me hostage, telling me what a horrible job the three of you have been doing. Mommy's very disappointed in you three." House smirked internally. "But I told her that it wasn't really your fault" House paused at the stunned looks on his staff's faces. "She's holding you to the impossible standards of being as good as me. That's just completely unfair." As each face deflated in front of him House's smile grew. "So what ungrateful patient are we treating today?"

"Seven year old boy presenting with fever, vomiting blood, and severe abdominal pain." Chase tapped his pen on the chart in front of him.

"Alright then, this is going to be fun." House shrugged out of his jacket, preparing to diagnose.

OOxxxOO

Dr. Lisa Cuddy rubbed her eyes and glanced to the clock on the far wall of her office. The time read 11:55 and the quiet of the hospital in the middle of the night seemed to further her fatigue. The administration in her wing of the hospital had long since left as she had planned to do when she had arrived at six that morning.

"Oh Dr. Cuddy I didn't know you were still here." House leaned on his cane with each step he took toward her desk, feigning surprise.

"How were you going to manage getting that file on my desk if I had left and locked my office door?" Cuddy dropped her pen on her desk, leaning back in her chair.

"Foreman's been teaching me a few tricks. I would have been gone in sixty seconds." House stood in front of Cuddy's desk, finally noticing her state of dress.

"That's some dress there Cuddy. I should sit down before I embarrass both of us." House sat down with his cane over his legs and a look of complete satisfaction on his face.

"I asked you to have this on my desk by day's end." She told him pointedly.

"And I did." House agreed. He looked to the clock which had not yet hit midnight. "I still have a minute or two; maybe I should correct those spelling errors."

"Well, thank you for completing it." Cuddy sighed in defeat.

"Oh no, that dress you're wearing….you weren't supposed to go on a date tonight were you?" House widened his eyes in mock surprise.

Cuddy didn't answer him. She pursed her lips and glared at one of her brightest doctors. He had managed to destroy a perfectly good evening, or what had the potential to be one. She shook her head, picking up the file House had just dropped on her desk, looking it over and signing the bottom, making a few notes in another file that was on her desk.

"So if you had somewhere to be, why were you hanging around here waiting for me?" House thought for a moment, "Don't tell me you're having an affair with Jorge the nighttime Janitor." House pointed a finger at her in triumph.

"I've got an eight a.m. meeting with the board tomorrow morning and needed this file to finish preparing the numbers." Cuddy made the final few notations on her computer, squinting at the bright light of the screen in the darkened office.

"Sorry." House stated.

Cuddy's head flew up at hearing him say sorry with an expression of disbelief on her face. She observed him for a beat before raising an eyebrow with obvious lack of amusement. "No you aren't" she argued.

"You're right. I'm not. But it was worth saying just to see the look on your face" he grinned, pleased with himself for playing with her head. Cuddy always proved to be a worthy opponent, even when he didn't want one.

"It's late so…" Cuddy trailed off thinking House might take the hint.

"What exactly was it I was keeping you from this evening?" House asked suddenly.

"Nothing." She shrugged, keenly aware of the dress she had donned earlier in anticipation of her evening out.

"So it was a date." House concluded. At Cuddy's curious look he explained. "If it had been work related you would have just told me but obviously you're now regretting the idea of going out with anyone who isn't even close to the perfection of male specimen that I am." He raised both eyebrows suggestively.

"Yeah, that's it," Cuddy nodded sarcastically.

"You look wrecked," House told her with his effortless lack of tact.

"Thanks. I'm going for the crazed doctor look that seems so popular in your department." She stood from her chair, turned off the screen on her computer, preparing to leave. House didn't seem to catch the second hint she threw him or he simply didn't care as he didn't move from the chair in front of her desk.

"Yeah well, you shouldn't be spending so much time here at the hospital. It can't be healthy; I don't know why you'd be hanging around here so late, you should be out getting a life" he chides.

Cuddy just stared at him incredulously. "But you've kept me here talking for far too long. I have to get some sleep; I knew I shouldn't have sat down to talk when you asked me to."

Without further ado House strode from the office and toward the bank of elevators, leaving a frustrated and tired Lisa Cuddy behind him.

"I must be a masochist to keep him around." She turned, looking the office door behind her.

The elevator arrived for House as Cuddy was walking down the hallway toward it. He got inside but made no effort to hold the door for her. Cuddy looked up from pulling her keys from her purse to see the doors begin to close. She jumped into action, hitting the closing doors at the last second to trigger the sensor and open them again.

"I see holding the elevator for me was too much to ask." She muttered, pushing her hair out of her face.

"Oh Dr. Cuddy, were you needing the elevator too?" House pretended to just be noticing her on the lift.

Fiery eyes tore into House, "You're a real prick you know that."

"And yet you keep me around," he smiled smugly.

"I don't really have a choice. It takes time to make a conclusive diagnoses of schizophrenia." House watched appreciatively as she folded her arms over her ample chest.

"You wound me Cuddy. I thought you were one of the only ones here who knew I wasn't crazy." He adjusted his bag over his shoulder.

"You're right, you're not crazy. That would be giving you an excuse for being a complete ass." Cuddy glanced up to see what floor they were on; the ride seemed to be taking an eternity

"I already know you want to sleep with me Cuddy, you don't have to gush." House got a whiff of her hazelnut scented hair when she flipped it to her other shoulder to look at him.

"Been there, done that and didn't bother to buy the T-shirt." Cuddy cursed the second the words left her mouth. She had done well not to bring up her past with Gregory House and he seemed not to care to mention it except in vague comedic references.

"You didn't realize what an amazing lay I was back then. If the years hadn't been so rough on you I would be inclined to let you have another go." Guilt tightened around his stomach, annoying House to no end. Cuddy was usually up for a good verbal battle but House knew there were some lines even his uncouth mouth didn't cross and he was teetering on the edge of one at that moment.

"At least I've still got use of all my limbs." She shot back, feeling her body shake with the effort it was taking to keep from hitting him.

"That's because you didn't have yourself as a doctor." House mentally winced, not knowing why he had insisted on taunting her tonight after he had obviously ruined her dinner plans.

They walked into the underground parking garage, Cuddy rushing ahead to get to her car, House lagging behind and watching her slumped shoulders tighten with each step she took.

"Thanks for lifting my spirits tonight. I needed it." She bit out facetiously. Hitting the unlock button on her keys the lights on her Lexus sedan blinked.

"Hey Lisa, I-" House was cut off by Cuddy's door slamming shut and the engine turning over. "Should learn to quit while I'm ahead." He opened up his own car door, sliding in.

Gunning his convertible's engine House tried to drown out the nattering in his ear telling him he should have taken the time he had with Lisa to find out what was so obviously on her mind instead of tormenting her. A small smirk lit his lips thinking how fun arguing with her had been though, Wilson never rose to the occasion and the three stooges were too easy of a target.

House was loath to admit it but Lisa Cuddy was the closest thing he had to an equal in the hospital. It was that realization that sent him running years before when they met in college. Now it was what drew him to her, why he spent so much of his time teasing or annoying her; it was time spent with her.

TBC